Earlier this month, 30 Rock made the move from Netflix to Hulu, forcing unnamed friends of mine to consider joining Hulu so they could rewatch the series for the seventh time. But the 30 Rock that appears on Hulu is different from the version which streamed on Netflix; as the Hollywood Reporter points out, one episode no longer includes a reference to dirtbag R&B singer Chris Brown.
Some background: During a season-three episode, “Goodbye, My Friend,” Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon stops by a 24-hour doughnut shop and meets a pregnant clerk, whose baby she immediately wants to adopt. The clerk (Phoebe Strole) tells Liz that some people she’s met through the adoption process are so lame that they “don’t even know who Chris Brown is,” and Liz apparently sings part of “With You” to prove her worth. But this is where things get murky (via THR):
However, THR noticed when the Emmy winning NBC comedy moved to Hulu, Becca no longer mentions Brown, and instead says “Ne-Yo” in the obviously re-edited cut. And when the camera cuts to Liz, only the muffled singing part of her retort is shown and it’s no longer clear that she’s meant to be singing “With You.”
THR goes on to mention that Reddit sleuths also picked up on this change, with some even noting that the edit was made for the DVD release in September of 2009.
But looking through coverage of the episode published right after its airdate (March 5, 2009—less than a month after Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna), it seems as though NBC even aired the Ne-Yo edit on the initial broadcast. From Entertainment Weekly’s morning-after recap:
Lemon’s impression of Ne-Yo (or was it Chris Brown? “Who Ne-Yo is” was clearly dubbed over…) must be viewed in video.
And a comment left on our sister site, The A.V. Club, from March 5, 2009, also seems to suggest that the Ne-Yo line made the original airing:
I’m old and I don’t get a baby
When the girl says, “And they don’t even know who Ne-Yo is.” I was like, “Duh, the guy from the Matrix.” And then I was old.
It’s not unprecedented for networks, NBC in particular, to pull episodes containing sensitive subject matter in the wake of a tragedy or unpleasant news development. But to have multiple versions of an episode floating around is definitely unusual. Maybe chalk it up to the Mandela Effect, but this seems to be a genuine distribution quirk. Unfortunately, there’s no video evidence online that we can find of the Netflix version, but Hulu subscribers can check out the Ne-Yo edit here, just past the 4-minute mark.
We’ve reached out to Hulu, Netflix, and NBC for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.